Monday, August 21, 2017

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I thought I was going to die during a 1/4 mile run on a treadmill.  It was terrible but intriguing.  I kept running at the YMCA that June, slowly increasing my distance, and sometime later that month, I ran my first nonstop mile outside.  I still remember it well.  Red-faced and gasping for breath, I walked into the house and told my husband, "I just ran a mile!"  He was duly impressed.  June in Tennessee is probably not the ideal month to start running outside, but I do enjoy a challenge!

My first 5K was that August in 34:59.  My goal had been under 35 minutes.  I was immediately hooked and proceeded to run one 5K a month for the next several months, beginning a string of PRs (personal records).  I like to call this the honeymoon period.  Every race was faster than the one before it.   In February, I upgraded to the 10K distance and finally broke 30 minutes in the 5K.  I joined the local running club.  In April, I ran the Country Music Half-Marathon with 30,000 other runners, with a happy 2:19 finish.

I find it difficult to dabble. After the half marathon, I was all in.  I continued running 5K's, 10K's, and half marathons, sometimes multiple races per month.  Since I don't like to do anything half-way (see what I did there?) only twenty-two months after that first short run, I completed the Country Music Marathon.  Then I decided I needed to share all of this running goodness with others.  I became a Road Runners Clubs of America certified running coach.  Just after the start of my third year as a runner, I was hired by the YMCA to coach a half-marathon training group.  Since then, I've coached over 140 half marathoners.

For a few years, my life revolved around running-- my own runs, my running friends, competing in races, running club activities, and coaching others.  It was more than a hobby and a job, it was a one-dimensional way of life.  I planned my week around my runs, not my runs around my week. My type-A-ness took over.  I was consumed by it. I think after having been a stay-at-home mom for 5 years at the time, I was just thrilled to have something FOR ME outside of these four walls, outside of being a mom and a wife. Other than my family, it was the primary source of my fulfillment as a human.

In hindsight, I see I was not just immersed in running, I was drowning in it-- to the detriment of my own health.  I was somehow able to remain uninjured the first few years of running, but when my obsession got the better of me and I began experimenting with ultramarathons and multiple marathons a year (plus Crossfit), I found myself injured part of the year every year.   There might be a pattern there, or maybe it was just turning 40!

During one particularly challenging training cycle in my early forties, my immune system decided to attack my thyroid gland.  I noticed my body was breaking down, my hair was falling out, I was constantly fatigued, I couldn't sleep, and my emotions were, let's just say, volatile.  There is a family history of thyroid disease on my mother's side.  There can be a genetic component that is latent until some source of stress activates it.  Did running give me hypothyroidism?  No.  Did training extremely hard for a goal race with little recovery, high mileage, and too many "quality" runs? Probably.  Since my foray into hypothyroidism, my race times and enjoyment of double-digit runs have both been slowly but definitively declining.  I have had to learn to let go of the runner I once was and embrace the one I am now.  A quick(ish) two-miles?  Run/walking a gentle 6 or 7?  Sign me up!   

So, after ten years, I find myself in a very different place regarding running.  Don't misunderstand, I'm still in to a degree, but not all in.   I work part-time as an English teacher, which I love. My job and my family give me the fulfillment that I once sought from running.  I still run, because it is now ingrained in my DNA, and I still do races every few months.  I hope that I will always run two or three days per week, but I also enjoy other activities like hiking, walking, cycling, and weights.  Plus, I get to do all of these things with my family!  I want to be fit, happy, and healthy, and I think I've finally found a degree of balance regarding running that supports all of those.

Monday, April 3, 2017

And I Can't Do Squat(s)...

I did the Music City Half Marathon in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't go great.  At about 8.5 miles, I hit a bit of a wall.  Pace dropped WAY off, and I ran/walked the rest. It wasn't because I went out way too fast.  I'm not sure what happened.  I took these pre-race:

It had been a tiring week. The time change really messed my sleep up.  I would say I had a very hypothyroid week!

After that race was over, I decided to really focus on strength training.  I had stopped most of my strength training due to a knee injury-- chondromalacia patella.  For some reason, for about two years, anytime I do squats regularly, I get knee pain.  I also get it from running too many long runs back to back.  So, I gave up squats after my physician's assistant told me that loading a bent knee was a bad idea.  But I can tell the DIFFERENCE.  I loved squats.  I felt strong when I did squats.

After 3 months of pain-free running and a sub-par half marathon, I declared myself healed and started doing squats again.


Nope.  I've had knee pain for a week and a half now.  I've just got to accept that I can't do squats, and I can't do squat about it!

I will have to find other ways to strengthen my legs.  I already run hills and trails.  Maybe that's enough.

I did have a great hike (with a tiny bit of running) this past weekend at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.  I loved the rocky trail!

I am going to run a trail half at the end of the month, and then I'm going to ease off the distance running and focus on 5K and 10K.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Still Kicking

It has been ages since my last blog post-- 9 months.  I'm not sure I've ever neglected the blog this long before.

The blog is somewhat representative of my running, I suppose.  At one time, it was absolutely a focal point in my life.  Now?  Notsomuch.  I run fewer miles and race fewer races.  I work more hours than I did when running filled a void in my stay-at-home mom life.  I developed Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and am struggling through menopause.  Now that I'm on the other side of 45, in some ways, I'm older and wiser, and the hobby that became LARGER THAN LIFE is really just that now-- a hobby.

I'm thankful for the people running has brought into my life (well, most of them).  I'm happy to still be an athlete, though not a competitive one at all anymore (not that I ever was, really!).  But honestly, I'm glad to not have to plan my life around running!  I've decided that road marathons are the devil, so those were the first to go!  It's been two years since my last one.  I attempted one last April, but I became ill on the course, and dropped to the half.  I still love trail running, and I think trail running and hiking--maybe even backpacking-- will remain a part of my life.

Recently, I realized that any road runs over 9 miles are just leaving me so beaten up.  My achilles tendon or my right IT band or my left knee hurts in most long runs.  The road miles over the years have taken a toll.  I've run close to 10,000 miles at this point in my 10-year running career.   Trail runs leave me feeling centered and happy, not beaten up.

I had an amazing time at the trail/road hybrid 50K last June.  I was happy for the entire race.  I didn't worry about pace.  I just enjoyed the day.   I think I need more runs like that in my life.

In the interest of maintaining somewhat of a race report long on here, here's what I have raced since then:

August 2016-- I did the Wild Thang 9-mile trail run again.  I pushed as much as I could that day.  My time was slower on that run than in some years past, but I felt like I put forth a solid effort.  I was so happy my friend Michelle surprised me and decided to meet me at the trail that day.  My friend Vanessa also ran it as her first trail race.  Friends make running better1

September 2016-- I coached my good friend John for his first full marathon, and I joined him on the day of the Run 4 Water marathon.   I ran the half marathon and then worked as his crew along with some of his family members.  It was a tough, HOT day, but John finished his first 26.2.  Between my half and run/walking with him, I got in 20 miles that day!

October 2016-- My sweet friend Elleana decided to meet me at Land Between the Lakes in nearby Grand Rivers, KY for the beautiful LBL road half marathon.  We got separated at the start, but then we ran miles 2-13 together and had the best time chatting!  My stomach was very unhappy about the Patty's pork chop from the night before, so miles 8 on were kind of rough, but Elleana stuck with me!

I took a big break from races after October.  I had been struggling with my left knee, so I limited myself to only 4-miles at a time in November and 6 in December.  Reduced mileage helped!  I also started running with a shortened stride and faster turnover.

In February of 2017, I ran my first race of the year.  Elleana and I ran the Dry Creek 10K+ (7.3 miles to be exact) trail race.  We once again had a fun day.  We climbed over downed trees, splashed in puddles, and climbed a mini-mountain.  It was her first trail race!   The whole day felt like an adventure.  I loved it!  It really renewed my love for trails.  I enjoy this course so much:

I am planning a few trail adventures this spring because I love them!   I'm also running a road half-marathon in two weeks.  I ran 12 road miles today, and well, UGH.  I've been worthless the rest of the day.

I'm going to run the half, but then I plan to focus on trails! I'm also coaching 6 awesome ladies for the St. Jude half marathon in April.

It's all good.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Good Day for a 50K: Hawthorn Half Day Race Report

  About a week and a half ago, I ran the Hawthorn Half Day timed ultra in Hawthorn Park in Terre Haute, Indiana.

   There were six-hour and twelve-hour options.  The course was a 3.1 mile loop that was a combination of trail/dirt, grass, gravel, and pavement.  I signed up for the twelve-hour option with no intention of running all 12 hours. My goal was to complete 50K and then begin the four-hour drive home without being too exhausted.  However, the week of the race predicted temps in the mid-90's, with a heat index at or over 100.  At that point I adjusted my goal to "whatever happens" and "just don't die."  It was refreshing to not have any expectations. Or just low ones.  I'm a sucker for low expectations! It takes the pressure off.  I'm not one to perform particularly well under pressure.  It's not like I'm trying to win the race or anything.  :-)  It's me against me.

  My friends Vanessa and Helene were my travel buddies.  We drove up the night before, stopping at a Ponderosa (those still exist??) somewhere in Northern Kentucky for some buffet magic- so many carb and protein choices!  It was actually good!  Our friend Lucas joined us the morning of the race to act as our one-man crew and encourager.

  Pre-race fresh faces:   (This is Vanessa.  I didn't get one with Helene and Lucas, unfortunately.)

  I went into this race fairly well trained but with a majority of my miles on the road.  The Flying Pig was going to be my longest run prior to this 50K, but that didn't work out due to illness.  I wound up with a 15-miler, a 16-miler, two 18's, and a 20-miler before this race.  My longest time on the trail was about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I knew this wasn't going to be technical, so I wasn't too worried.

  Apparently, I thrive in looped, timed races.  I have no problem running the same 3.1 mile course over and over.  (Or the same half-mile loop over and over like at RUTS!)   I get to know the course intimately.  I have favorite spots and less favorite spots.  I know I will pass my own personal aid station multiple times.  I don't have to think.  I just run.  I also enjoy ultras because I can run slow and relaxed, and I don't mind being out there all day.

  I ran the first few loops with or near Vanessa and Helene, but we wound up separating by loop four.  I figured I would find someone to talk to during the race, which happens so many times, but that didn't happen.  It was just me out there.  And it was GOOD.  I was in the best mood the entire race. My body was cooperating, and I was staying entertained by my own mind.  
  I think I was smiling like this the whole race.  I'm not sure which loop this was, but don't I look ridiculously happy?  It felt good to have a race go well for a change!!  There was no wall.  There was just happy running.  The miles and laps absolutely flew by.  During one loop, I took a few course pics, but mostly I left my phone at the campsite.  Here are a few scenic spots of the trail section of the course:

  This was the most significant hill.  It was short, but steep.  There were four hills per loop, so I ran up 40 hills!  Only this one was noticeable, and one time, I found myself on the other side of it without noticing it.  I think that was loop 5 or 6.  I thought, "Wait, have I done the hill yet?"  I had absolutely no recollection of it.  I was lost in my thoughts.....

These next few show the lake we ran around.

  I called this full-sun 3/4 mile "the oven."

  This is another full-sun section, but it is shorter.  Around my 8th loop, I was talking to another runner telling him my nickname for the above section as we ran this one.  He said if the long one is "the oven," this one should be called "the toaster oven."  Clever.  (CAUTION? These must be special attack geese or something.)

  The early morning temps weren't too bad, but by late morning, it was WARM.  I concentrated on staying hydrated and staying cool.  Lucas crewed me like a boss.  He'd ask, "What do you need?" every loop, and I'd give him a list.  At the top of my list was a ziploc baggie of ice, then a water bottle filled 3/4 with ice and 1/4 with lemon-lime Skratch.   The Tailwind I had didn't agree with me that day, so I'm putting it away awhile for the less-sweet Skratch.  

  Honestly, the baggie of ice SAVED me!  I put it under hat to cool my brain.  I tied it on the back of my neck with a bandana.  My favorite spot for it was in my bra!   The ice would last most of a 3.1 mile lap.  I'd switch it every few miles, and it provided welcome distraction.  

  It is hard to know how to dress for a 90-degree + race.  I started the race in a tank, but it began to chafe, and I wound up switching to a short-sleeved white shirt as the day wore on.  It was very lightweight, and the motto fit!  (It was from my last trail race in Indiana last fall.)

  When the temperature got even warmer, we were blessed by a breeze, which made it not only bearable, but even comfortable!  Somehow this weather did not bother me at all the entire day.  Before the race, I was not concerned about my legs being able to do it, I was concerned about heat illness!  I had even considered not going to the race.  I wasn't sure how my body would handle these temps with my hypothyroidism and having gotten sick at the Flying Pig, at least partly due to the heat.  But I had friends praying for me during this race and sending me well-wishes, and I felt amazing.  I took it slow and steady, which is my favorite way to run anyway! 

 This is the temperature from when I hit the trail marathon distance.  I was still feeling good.  Nothing hurt. 

After the marathon, I just had 1.5 more loops to do.  I was running when I could and hiking when I needed to.  I crossed the 50K point in 7:23:05 feeling happy and truly blessed.

  I felt recovered by Wednesday that week, except for one ugly toenail blister.  It finally went away 7 days later, but the toenail is now a nice shade of black.  I've taken a week and a half off from running.  The family and I went down to Florida for a great week of vacation the Thursday after the race.  I may not have run, but the Apple watch says we've walked 6-10 miles per day every day of vacation.  I love walking miles and miles along the beach.  I ran briefly for about 100 meters once just to say "I ran on the beach."  I just don't feel like running again yet or training for anything.  It's time for my yearly break to recover mentally and physically.  I'm ready.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DNF: Do Nothing Foolish---Flying Pig Race Report

Well, the Flying Pig Marathon didn't go as planned, to say the least.

Here is the whole ugly story, as told in pictures and thoughts:

The night before the race around midnight:  My stomach is awfully rumbly.  I must not have eaten enough dinner!

1:00 a.m.:  I sure wish I could sleep!

2:00 a.m.:  Don't think about not sleeping.  Don't think about not sleeping.

4:25 a.m.:  It's almost alarm time.  I might as well get up.

5:00 a.m.:   I'm really tired, probably because I didn't sleep!  This oatmeal is disgusting.

5:45 a.m.:  Ready to go!  Eagle up!   (Me, Harriet, and Cheryl)

Mile 1:  Feelin' fine!  I'm so glad we didn't go out too fast!  This is going to be fun! 

Mile 2:  Wow, it's crowded.  There are people in my personal space!  Time to run with elbows out to gain a little room. 
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 3:  Oh, ANOTHER bridge.  It's pretty I guess. Wow, I'm getting HOT.  I can feel heat radiating off my face and chest.  That's weird.   I'll just keep sipping this Tailwind and stay hydrated. 
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 4:  I'm feeling really, really hot and now dizzy.  So Much Nausea.  Just keep sipping fluids. Should I tell Harriet in case I pass out?    "Harriet, I need to tell you something.  I'm not feeling exactly right.  I'm dizzy and overheated.  Here is my road ID with Chris's number on it in case I pass out."    

Mile 5:  Pouring water on my head and the back of my neck at the water station will help.  (It didn't.)

Mile 6:  I do not like this uphill.  Fight the nausea.  Fight the dizziness.  Keep moving.

Mile 7: (still going uphill)  Ugh.  Running makes me dizzy, so I'm just going to walk this looonng uphill.  Oh, look, it's Elvis.  If if didn't feel so crappy, I'd get a picture with him.  
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 8: (praying) "God, I need you to get me through this run!  There's no way I can do this on my own for 18 more miles.  Tell me what to do." 

Mile 8.5:  I remember that the half-marathon split is at mile 9.  Should I drop down?   I'm having chills, nausea, and dizziness now.  Every step is a battle.  Am I having a heat stroke?   I don't want the girls to have to take me to the hospital and for Chris to worry. (more prayer) "God, please help me to be smart and do the right thing. I don't want to do anything foolish and hurt myself.  Make it clear what I should do."

Mile 8.75:  "Harriet, I have a decision to make.  I think I may drop down to the half.  I don't think it is wise to continue feeling like this. I'm having bad chills and nausea now."  She totally agreed and practically pushed me over into the half-marathon lane!

Mile 9:   (with complete clarity after taking the half-marathon split)  I made the right decision.

Mile 10:  Oh, good grief, how many more miles do I have???   I feel like dirt.  Worse than dirt.  My energy is gone.  Ok, that's a cute sign.   
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 11:  Why is this downhill so HARD????   (12:00 minute pace on the downhill.....)   That guy is passing out Swedish Fish.  Maybe a little sugar will give me energy to finish. 

Mile 12:  I'm just going to walk it in from here.  No, I'm going to run.  Ok, I'll run a little and walk a little.  Oh, damn.  That was a dry heave. At least it was dry. 

Mile 13:  Don't throw up.  Don't throw up.  There are people everywhere.  

Mile 13.1:  Thank you, Jesus!  
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 13.2:  I should take a selfie that shows how I feel right now.  If I smile, the bile may slide out.....

6 minutes after finishing:  Which way is the hotel?   Oh, dear Lord, I don't know!!!

12 minutes after finishing:  (wandering around carrying an armload of finish line food I can't eat)   This doesn't look right.  Why am I inside the stadium??

15 minutes after finishing:  Ok, I'll Google the hotel address and use Maps app to walk back there.  Oh, it's only 0.6 miles away.  Thank goodness. 

20 minutes after finishing:  I'm never going to get there.  I wish I'd brought money for a cab.  If my arms weren't so full, I'd open this bottle of water and drink it. 

25 minutes after finishing:  Where is it???  Don't panic.  Don't panic.  Oh, thank HEAVEN, there it is!!  

5 seconds later:  Oh, man,  that is far away.  (It's the beige one in the distance behind the pole.)  I seriously feel awful.  Have I ever felt this awful before??  Just keep moving.....

30 minutes after finishing:  This is ridiculous.  

32 minutes after finishing:  Whew, I made it.  

I have absolutely no regrets about dropping down to the half.  A DNF sometimes means "Do Nothing Foolish."  I listened to my body on this day!  There will be other marathons.  (Maybe.)

I was sick the rest of the day and for the next four days with fever, nausea, fatigue, and chills.  My friends took good care of me on the long drive home.  Two of my kiddos came down with it on Sunday and Monday.  Viruses happen.  I just hope one never happens during a marathon again! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When Pigs Fly....

In just a little over two weeks, I will be running what looks like the Happiest Marathon on Earth--the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I mean, look at these pictures:

They call it the Finish Swine, ya'll.  How could I not run it?

Training has gone pretty well.  I ran a couple of 16-milers, an 18, and a 20.  I finished the 18 and 20 strong with my fastest miles in the last three miles.  I have finally figured out the KEY to the long run is to start out really slow.  And stay slow.  Then finish strong.

In fact, that sounds like a pretty darn good marathon strategy!  I am NOT looking for a PR.  I would love to beat my times in my last two or three marathons, but we shall see.

My former speed (what little there was) has not recovered from my adrenal fatigue/getting old or whatever happened last fall.  That's ok though.  I've really rediscovered a love for road running that I didn't see coming back.  On trails lately, I prefer to hike, mainly because of a good friend and my husband both severely injuring themselves during trail runs this fall/winter.  Maybe I'm angry at trail running?  Scared of injuring myself?  I don't know, but I feel like I could hike for days and days.  (Maybe I need to sign up for a 48-hour event on a beautiful trail and just hike until I drop??)

I'm also recently newly obsessed with the Appalachian Trail.  I'm not the thru-hiker type, but I wouldn't mind doing sections at times.  In fact, I got to hike on it just a few weeks ago in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!  I also read Becoming Odyessa recently, the story of Jennifer Pharr Davis's first thru hike.  Some gals and I are toying with a week-long AT hiking trip in the future.

Overall, I'm in a good place in my running world.  Not everything is perfect, of course.  There are always bumps in the road (first-world problems....).  Another one of my dear friends (and running buddies) is moving away in two weeks.  She makes the 4th friend/trail running buddy/road trip companion to have left in the past 11 months!  They were all stay-at-home moms who could run during the day with me.  I see many lonely solo miles in my future!  I just prefer to run when the kids are at school, so I can be home with them in the evenings.   Also, my knees finally rebelled against all of the road running.  I noticed three weeks ago a catch in my left knee during my 20-miler.  That grew into a dull and sometimes sharp ache.  Runner's knee.  Patellar tendonitis.  I am backing off the runs for the next two weeks, and am just going to coast until the marathon.  I'm doing other things to treat it:  stretching, foam rolling, strength training.  It'll be fine.  Or it won't, and it'll hurt for 26.2 miles.  I'll live.  :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Running with Perseverance

After my 12-week Maffetone base build, and 4 weeks of 80/20 easy/hard running, I'll test this style of running in the Frostbite Half on Saturday.

It will be my 3rd time to run this race.  The past two times, I ran 2:15 and 2:14.  This time, I'd be fairly happy with 2:18, but maybe Maffetone Magic will surprise me!

I didn't taper well.  I ran a 10.5 mile trail run last Saturday that was really, really tough.  Then I walked about 3.5 on Sunday and took a yoga class on Monday.  Not having taken yoga in months, that was not the smartest idea!  My glutes and hips have been so sore!

I ran  3.5 mile runs on Tues/Wed and rested today.  I may run two miles tomorrow with strides, or I may just rest.

I honestly have no idea what Saturday will hold for me, but I will run with perseverance.

The most important thing is that I feel happy and healthy.

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I tho...